Today is Ed Hanna‘s birthday. He’s 54 years old.
It’s kind of a big deal.
My wife, Amy, and I met Ed on May 29, 2011. We were going from place to place after the Joplin tornado looking for places to help out, and found a few people at Ed’s place cleaning up.
Ed lived just a few block down from my friend, Jeff Page, whose house was decimated in the tornado. We ended up on Pennsylvania Street because I wanted to go back to the scene of Jeff’s house. I was having a hard time letting go of a place I had so many great memories at when I lived in the area, and wanted to see if there was someone who could use our services.
There were two houses with a good amount of activity on the street that day, Ed’s, and another one a couple of doors down on the other side.
“Which one should we go to,” I asked?
My wife looked at Ed’s house, then across the street. Ed’s house was covered in this grey matter and looked like insulation had been ripped apart, hydrated, then blown across the surface of the house. The other house wasn’t exactly standing, but there were people working in hardhats, colorful vests, and seemed to be highly organized.
“I don’t know,” she said. “Maybe we should go to that one,” picking the well-orchrestated team across the way.
I didn’t blame her. We had been working all day. We were beat. We could have used a light duty.
“I guess we know where we need to go then,” I said.
And we made our way to Ed’s house instead. To paraphrase Seth Godin, whatever you’re afraid of doing, do that.
It was the correct choice.
It was dark inside the house. Black plastic trash bags covered some of the windows, clear tarps on others. We made our way up a spiraling staircase and found three people upstairs working in a room covered with insulation. There was a gaping hole in the roof, covered by a vinyl banner, like the one you’d see hanging announcing a sale or the latest special at a deli. Water sat suspended in the tarp hanging through the roof, floating over the workers, threatening to undue the recovery that had been made so far.
And then I met Ed. He was working with a white air-filtering mask on, digging through a box of his things. His work was focused. The people working in that room were doing all they could to salvage, then move, items to the street where it could be taken to a safer location later.
We got to work carrying things downstairs over and over again to the shelter of outside. I remembered carrying down a box of records and seeing Springsteen and Paul McCartney. The covers didn’t fair the storm well, but one wouldn’t know for sure how they played until they were under a needle.
Eventually, we took a break and Ed told me his story. He has two dogs; both were sucked out of his kitchens windows during the tornado. He took shelter, but was sure he had lost his beloved canines.
The dogs survived.
His year-1907 home, with its hardened wood and stone structure, held up, saving his life. Looks like the story of the three little pigs and the house made of stone holds a bit of wisdom, too.
Apparently, Ed’s a mean pastry chef. I later learned we share a connection: he trained under a chef at the Old Miner’s Inn in Alba, Mo, for seven years. I too spent a lot of time near the Old Miner’s Inn while I was in college: my band practiced in the front of an old woodshop right next door three times a week for several years.
In July, Mennonites came and re-roofed his house and the arduous duty of rebuilding his home continues.
At least it’s without the threat of a water-filled tarp.